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Matthew Tooth
UNSW’s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre
0434 928 348

Australians significantly overestimate the popularity of ice use, skewing perceptions of the drug and the risks it poses, a survey by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre at UNSW has found.

The online survey of more than 11,000 people aged over 13, the largest of its kind to-date in Australia, also found respondents view the drug differently based on their desire to try it.

Half the respondents believed between 30% and 100% of Australians had tried ice. In reality, lifetime use of methamphetamine is close to 7%, with ice use specifically making up only about half of this, Australian Drug Strategy Household Survey figures show.

The survey found:

  • around 80% of respondents overestimated prevalence of ice use;
  • almost half the respondents believe 30 – 100% of Australians have tried ice in their lifetime;
  • a fifth of survey respondents thought more than half the Australian population had tried ice at least once in their lifetime;
  • only 14% of survey respondents correctly estimated the number of lifetime users of methamphetamine (7%);
  • the use of ice to escape reality or to avoid dealing with troubling thoughts and emotions was more common among women;
  • potential future users felt ice is less dangerous to health and less addictive than some other drugs, compared even to those who have actually used ice;
  • the most commonly reported age of first ice use was 18 years old.

Professor Jan Copeland, Director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC), said the misconceptions in the Australian community regarding the prevalence of ice use were disturbing.

“That’s an enormous portion of the population who are assumed to have tried a highly addictive and potentially deadly substance,” Professor Jan Copeland said.

“The most worrying aspect of this is that it normalises ice use in the minds of those who may be thinking of trying it.”

Professor Copeland says the survey results point to a significant need for more targeted education and awareness, to lessen the gap between perceptions and the reality of ice.

“It’s really important prevention-based education and awareness campaigns use research like this to gain a better understanding of the ways ice and ice users are viewed,” Professor Jan Copeland said.

“Exploring the gaps between public perception and the realities of use can help create a constructive national conversation about the issue, and guide future attempts to reduce uptake and use.”

Read more about the findings of NCPIC’s recent survey here.